Electric Dreams (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Steve Barron|
|Produced by||Larry DeWaay
|Written by||Rusty Lemorande|
|Music by||Giorgio Moroder
|Edited by||Peter Honess|
Electric Dreams is a 1984 British-American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film set in San Francisco, California, that depicts a love triangle between a man, a woman and a personal computer. It stars Lenny Von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, and the voice of Bud Cort and was directed by Steve Barron. It was the first film released by the Virgin Films production company.
The film's credits dedicate it to the memory of UNIVAC I.
The story opens with Miles Harding, an architect who envisions a brick shaped like a jigsaw puzzle piece that could enable buildings to withstand earthquakes. Seeking a way to get organized, he buys a personal computer (made by the fictitious Pinecone Computers) to help him develop his ideas. Although he is initially unsure that he will even be able to correctly operate the computer, he later buys numerous extra gadgets that were not necessary for his work, such as switches to control household appliances like the blender, a speech synthesizer, and a microphone. The computer addresses Miles as "Moles", because Miles mistyped his name during the initial set-up. When Miles attempts to download data from a mainframe computer at work, the computer begins to overheat. In a state of panic, Miles pours a nearby bottle of champagne over the machine, which then becomes sentient.
The remainder of the film deals with a love triangle between Miles, his computer (who later identifies his own name as "Edgar"), and Miles' neighbor, an attractive cellist named Madeline. Upon hearing her practicing a piece from Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach on her cello through an air vent connecting both apartments, Edgar promptly elaborates a parallel variation of the piece, leading to an improvised duet. Believing it was Miles who had engaged her in the duet, Madeline begins to fall in love with him in spite of her ongoing relationship with fellow musician Bill.
At Miles' request, Edgar composes a piece of music for Madeline. When their mutual love becomes evident, however, Edgar responds with jealousy, canceling Miles' credit cards and registering him as an "armed and dangerous" criminal. Miles shoves the computer and tries to unplug it, getting an electric shock. Then the computer retaliates by harassing him with household electronics.
Eventually, Edgar accepts Madeline and Miles' love for each other, and appears to commit suicide by sending a large electric current through his acoustic coupler, around the world, and back to himself. In the final scene, a pop song written by Edgar (who has somehow survived his apparent destruction) as a tribute to Miles and Madeline, plays on radio stations across California.
- Lenny Von Dohlen as Miles Harding
- Virginia Madsen as Madeline Robistat
- Maxwell Caulfield as Bill
- Bud Cort as Voice of Edgar
- Don Fellows as Mr. Ryley
- Miriam Margolyes as Ticket girl
- Giorgio Moroder as Record producer
Steve Barron had made over a hundred music videos and would routinely send them to his mother for comment. One he did for Hayzee Fantazee she particularly liked; she was doing continuity on Yentl, co-produced by Rusty Lemorande and showed it to him. Lemorande had just finished his own script, Electric Dreams and was looking for a director; he ended up offering Barron the job.
Barron took the script to Virgin Films who agreed to finance within four days. The film was presold to MGM/UA who brought rights for the US, Canada, Japan and South East Asia. Two months after Virgin agreed to make the movie, filming began in San Francisco. There was also studio work done in London at Twickenham Studios.
Virginia Madsen later recalled she "was very spoiled on that movie, because it was such a lovefest that I now believe that every movie should be like that... I had a mad, crazy crush on Lenny Von Dohlen. God, we were so… we were head-over-heels for each other. Nothing happened, and at this point, I admit it: I wanted it to happen.... He’s still one of my best friends."
The movie featured music from Giorgio Moroder, Culture Club and Heaven 17. "The fact that there's so much music has to do with the success of Flashdance," Barron admitted during filming. "This film isn't Flashdance 2. Flashdance worked because of the dancing. It didn't have a story. Electric Dreams does."
Barron later said "Electric Dreams was definitely an attempt to try and weave the early eighties music video genre into a movie." He added that the film "isn’t that deep. The closest parallel is probably that it's a Cyrano de Bergerac-like exploration of how words and music can help nurture and grow feelings on the path to love. Oops that’s too deep."
The soundtrack features music from prominent popular musicians of the time, being among the movies of this generation that actively explored the commercial link between a movie and its soundtrack. The soundtrack album Electric Dreams was re-issued on CD in 1998.
Steve Barron later recalled:
Giorgio Moroder was hired as composer and played me a demo track he thought would be good for the movie. It was the tune of "Together In Electric Dreams" but with some temporary lyrics sung by someone who sounded like a cheesy version of Neil Diamond. Giorgio was insisting the song could be a hit so I thought I'd suggest someone to sing who would be as far from a cheesy Neil Diamond as one could possibly go. Phil Oakey. We then got Phil in who wrote some new lyrics on the back of a fag [cigarette] packet on the way to the recording studio and did two takes which Giorgio was well pleased with and everybody went home happy.
It received a generally negative review in The New York Times, which said that the film failed to "blend and balance its ingredients properly," and that it lost plot elements and taxed credibility.
However the Los Angeles Times called it "inspired and appealing... a romantic comedy of genuine sweetness and originality."
Electric Dreams was released in 1984 (VHS) and again in 1991 (VHS), but has not been manufactured since the mid-1990s. MGM Home Video released a Laserdisc in America in 1985, and Warner Bros. released a Video CD version for the Singapore market in 2001, but both are out of print. The film was released to Region 2 DVD on April 6, 2009, however the initial Virgin Films animated logo and opening lines of 'Electric Dreams' sung by P.P. Arnold were removed (20 seconds). It has never been released on Blu-ray and there is only one publicly rentable print of the original 35mm film available, as shown at the Prince Charles Cinema in London on 9 August 2012 and previously in Birmingham and Indonesia.
Director Steve Barron later said when he made the film there was a prejudice against video clip directors doing drama, and since Electric Dreams "was a little bit like an extended music video... I didn't help that cause in a lot of ways. (laughs)"
In 2009 Barron said that Madsen had told him she was planning on being involved in a remake. "She didn't ask me to do it so I guess I blew my chance on the first one!" he said. "I wouldn't actually do it but it would have been nice for the ego to be asked." As at 2015, no remake has resulted.
- "ELECTRIC DREAMS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1984-04-16. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
- VIDEO DIRECTOR IN VIRGIN TERRITORY Mills, Nancy. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 Nov 1983: g8.
- THE SMOKE-FILLED ROOM LEADS TO CLEAN DEALS Pollock, Dale. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 May 1984: g1.
- Will Harris, "Virginia Madsen on smelling Christopher Walken, getting tax advice from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and more", Random Roles - AV Club, 19 July 2013 accessed 26 July 2013
- "CHILD AT HEART : STEVEN BARRON ON MICHAEL, MADONNA & MERLIN" Almost Kael accessed 20 January 2015
- "Electric Dreams" Soundtrack on Amazon.com
- "Electric Dreams" Soundtrack releases on Allmusic.com
- "The Steve Barron Interview", The Black Hit of Space April 2009 accessed 20 January 2015
- "Electric Dreams (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2012-06-31. Check date values in:
- "Electric Dreams" Review, Lawrence Van Gelder, New York Times, July 20, 1984
- COMPUTER MAKES FOR SWEET 'ELECTRIC DREAMS' Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 July 1984: g13.
- "Electric Dreams" Region 2 DVD on Amazon.com
- "The Man Who Defined The Music Video: Our Interview With Steve Barron" Culture Brats 4 August 2011 accessed 20 January 2015
- Electric Dreams at the Internet Movie Database
- Electric Dreams at Box Office Mojo
- Electric Dreams at Rotten Tomatoes